Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Adoption as an option

The first and most important thing I want to say is: This is not a pro-life v.s. pro-choice conversation. For the record. OK. 'Nuff said.

There has been a lot of debate and discussion about abortion with the passage of the health care bill - and I am not going to touch on it except to acknowledge that it has been part of the narrative. At the same time, there has been a lot of debate and discussion about adoption, based on the story that exploded last week wherein a woman sent her adopted son back to Russia with a one-way ticket and a note of "explaination". I am not going to share my opinion about that, either (but it will be much more difficult, because BOY do I have something to say).

I will say this: while these two seemingly unrelated issues are being debated and discussed and dragged through news cycle after news cycle, I thought to myself "we are focusing on the wrong things here."

I want to talk about domestic adoption - something that shouldn't be so difficult, and hopefully isn't too much of a hot-button issue, because the last thing I want to do is offend anyone. I just want to tentatively raise my hand and ask "Why can't we have more of this ?" I am not against international adoption in the least, I just want to promote domestic adoption as something that is also wonderful and (I think) should be more prevalent, and easier to accomplish.

I am an adoptive parent. It was a domestic adoption - I adopted a child that was born in my local hospital. And I am going to have to be honest here: I am ANGRY about the treatment domestic adoption gets in the public forum. Or rather, the lack of treatment. It so rarely gets floated as an option - as a viable alternative to abortion, as a choice that seems to benefit everyone involved. And that is because enough Americans are not considering adoption as a solution to unplanned (but otherwise uncomplicated) pregnancies. While American families are flying around the world trying to adopt a child, I am frustrated that they are not focusing on children available for adoption right here in the United States. Why adopt a 7 year old from Russia, when the foster care system here in the US is overwhelmed with children looking for a home? I don't want to over-simplify, I know that this has been discussed before, and I also know that people adopt for many reasons, and choose to adopt internationally for many reasons. And there is quite an uproar these days over the threat that Russia is making, to stop allowing Americans to adopt their children. But maybe we DO need to pause, finish up the adoptions that are in process (this is important - there have already been connections made and bonds formed) and hold off on processing new applications for international adoptions.

Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing.
Maybe it would allow us to look more closely within our own country for a child to love and care for - without the expense of cutting through red tape and traveling halfway around the world. Maybe it would encourage more American birth parents who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant to consider adoption, and look within their own community for an adoptive family to raise their child.

Adoption does not - and frankly, it SHOULD NOT  - need to cost a lot of money. Our adoption cost about $1300. Total. I didn't drop a zero, there. Thirteen Hundred Dollars. We didn't use an agency. We heard about a couple looking for an adoptive family, we hired a lawyer, and we adopted our newborn daughter. And yes, we WERE lucky. And yes, it DOESN'T usually happen that way.

But it can. And it should.

Adoption allows the birth parents an exceptional amount of control to make a choice that is right for them and their child. And not just the right decision right now - this is about their future, about the child's future, and about the future of another family, out there somewhere, waiting for the amazing gift of adoption to be bestowed upon them (and there are MANY OF US). Recently, adoption has been discussed more often, and is featured in the "16 and Pregnant" series on MTV, which followed a young couple through the successful adoption of their infant by a family that they chose. And that was wonderful to see.


That MTV show notwithstanding, adoption is not raised as an option often enough. When I was a teenager, and going to Planned Parenthood for birth control, adoption was not a featured choice. It may have been mentioned briefly, but it was not discussed in depth when a pregnancy test came back positive. There were no posters of adoptive families, or listings on a bulletin board of families hoping to adopt. And trust me when I tell you, adoption is pretty much the MOST planned kind of parenthood there is.

So while we debate and discuss abortion, and international adoption law, could we also please shine some of the spotlight on domestic adoption? On making it easier? Less intimidating? Less expensive? Rather then worrying about whether the public option would cover abortion, why not have it cover adoption? There are many MANY parents-to-be out there waiting for a child to call their own through adoption - they are already parents in spirit, parents in their dreams - but without a child.
They have purchased the family car, and saved for a college education, and bought a house with a room that would be perfect for a nursery.

They have been fingerprinted and photographed, their homes have been inspected, they have met with counselors and had blood tests and proved they are citizens and provided references and shown steady employment and reliable income and a savings account.

They have had their driving history checked, their finances analyzed, their eductional history scrutinized and verified.

They have trained their pets and cleaned their carpets and childproofed their homes.

They have gone through far more then any birth parent needs to when bringing a child home. And all they need is a child to love and care for.

Instead of declaring yourself pro choice, or pro life, and plastering your car with all manner of incendiary stickers, and waving signs with a passion and zeal but without offering a solution, consider declaring yourself Pro Adoption, which is conveniently both Pro Life AND Pro Choice - choose adoption. It is, in essence, a compromise.

No one should be forced to parent. And there is an alternative to terminating an unplanned but otherwise (and once again, I want to stress these parameters) uncomplicated pregnancy.

There is a middle ground here - and I am planting my feet and waving my signs and waiting for someone to join me.


la chuparosa said...

LOVE this post. Thanks for the articulate, beautiful perspective.

Jennifer said...

The woman that sent her son back lives in my town, about a mile away from me. Our dull little town is reeling from all the media attention. It's not an easy story, either from the child's perspective OR the mother's. It doesn't sound like she was able to parent him the way she felt like he deserved, and I do applaud that she realized that. I just struggle with her decision to put him on a plane alone...wondering if she ever bothered asking for help first.

qandlequeen said...

Seriously, if all of the money poured into the pro-life/pro-choice movements was redirected to helping the adoption process along - wow, what a difference!

You're right, more needs to be done to make adoption an easier, less scary process.